Freelancing is a great option if you want the freedom of choosing the work you do and the flexibility of dictating your own availability. But, like everything else, freelancing comes with a learning curve for most.
Being highly skilled in your given area of expertise doesn’t necessarily equate to knowing your way around the financial aspects of working for yourself.
A good place to start is with professional invoicing. Properly billing your clients will help you to get paid on time and via your preferred payment method. It also helps to document your income and track payments from individual clients, keeping you organized and on top of your financial freelance game.
What to Include in Your Freelance Invoices
Although every professional freelancer will need to include different details in their invoices, there are a number of standard basics you should have.
1. Contact Information
Contact information for both you and your client is essential for any invoice. At the very least, be sure to have:
- Your client’s business name and address
- Your name, company name, address, phone number, and website
Including contact information in your invoices serves a few purposes:
- It helps to organize your information by client
- It gives the client a number of ways to contact you with questions or concerns
- It helps to distinguish the tax amount you should charge based on your client’s location
2. Invoice Number
Each invoice you send to a client should have a unique invoice number. Regardless of how you choose to number your invoices, each one should be customized every time you send an invoice to a client, whether it’s for the first time or you bill them regularly.
For example, you can order invoices in a variety of ways, including:
- Basic sequential invoice numbers, starting at 001 for your first invoice, 002 for your second, and so on
- Using years or months with an individual invoice number (2022-001 or 2022-01-001)
- Mixing letters and numbers to indicate a specific client associated with an invoice number (like GS-001 for Greg Smith’s first invoice)
Invoice numbers allow you to track payments for specific billing periods, helping you to keep track of which invoices have been paid and which clients need a gentle reminder.
Don’t spend too much time worrying about how to organize your invoice numbers. If you only send out a few invoices per month, keep it simple and straightforward. You can always change or update your numbering system when you get a new client or come up with a better method.
3. Payment Information
The purpose of your invoice is to get paid, so it makes sense that you would include payment information on it. But there are some details that may not have crossed your mind that help you to get paid on time and using the method you prefer.
Include the following information to get paid when and how you want to:
- The date you send the invoice
- When payment is due
- How the client can make a payment
- Any additional payment information, like who to make payment out to or what email address to use
It doesn’t have to be complicated. You can write a message as simple as, “Please make payment via PayPal to firstname.lastname@example.org within 14 days.”
As long as you include the sent date and the payment terms, it will be easy for the client to determine by when they must pay your invoice. And adding in your payment details means you’re more likely to receive payment via the method you prefer and to the account associated with your business.
Plus, by not including a specific payment due date, you won’t have to update it each time you send a new invoice.
4. Service Description and Cost
The biggest and most detailed part of most invoices is the section where you describe the services you rendered and their associated costs. How you detail this information will vary greatly depending on what you offer and how you bill your clients.
Most invoices will include a column for:
- Quantity of items, like how many articles you wrote or webpages you created
- A description of the items, like a blog title or client phone call
- How the price is calculated, if applicable, such as the cost per hour or per unit
- The total price for each individual line item
For example, a line item for a blogger could look something like this:
|Number of Hours||Description||Hourly Rate||Total|
|5||Article (10 Best Hiking Spots)||$25.00||$125.00|
Individual line items should clearly indicate what a client is being charged for, how much your rate is, and the total amount for the project. Breaking information down into sections keeps both you and the client organized and on the same page.
If you have multiple rates with a single client, break your invoices into sections by including a table like the one above for each separate pricing structure. For example, your rate might be different for writing versus editing. If you provided both services to a client in the same billing cycle, break out your writing charges from your editing charges as separate line items on the invoice.
5. Additional Charges or Discounts
Before you calculate the total amount due, account for any additional charges or discounts that apply to your client’s bill, such as:
- Costs for subscriptions, materials, or supplies the client has agreed to pay for
- Outstanding amounts owed from previous bills
- Travel costs being reimbursed by the client
- Charges for work that you subcontracted to another freelancer
Describe these billable amounts and their corresponding costs in the same way you document your services. Group any additional costs together so that your invoice is easy to read and understand.
6. Total Amount Due
At the end of your line items, include the total amount due. This amount is made up of your service costs, additional charges, discounts, and any applicable taxes or fees. It’s the total amount due for your billing cycle that you are asking the client to pay.
If you have clients in other countries, designate the currency the invoice is in as well — for example, CA$2000 or US$400. If a client pays you in a foriegn currency, make a note of how much you received in your native currency to keep your accounting records up-to-date and accurate.
7. Payment Terms
One of the last items on your invoice will be your payment terms if you have any. These are typically made up of payment-based clauses outlined in your initial contract with a client, such as:
- Interest charges or late fees for past-due payments
- Accepted payment options, such as debit or credit card, e-transfer, or check
- Typical invoice due dates
- Whether you offer discounts for early payment
This section of your invoice shouldn’t be long. It should simply reiterate the payment terms that were in your original contract without going into specific details or legal jargon. Including a brief reminder of your payment terms in each invoice ensures your clients are consistently aware of your expectations for timely payments and the consequences of partial or late payments.
Not only does this information act as a reference point should any payment disputes arise, but it also encourages your clients to pay you on time and in full.
8. Optional Invoice Upgrades
After you put together the basic elements of your invoice as described above, you can make some small upgrades to your invoice template to boost your professionalism and to improve whatever invoicing system you use. For example, you could:
Use a Logo and Branded Colors
If you have a logo for your freelance business, your invoice is a great place to showcase it. The same goes for any brand colors you use on your website or in any of your other professional documents, like your contract or quotes. Well-designed freelance records set you apart from other contractors who use generic, basic templates by highlighting your professionalism and legitimacy as a serious business owner.
Create and Send Digital Copies
Online invoicing is the way to go if you’re a freelancer. Not only are digital invoices easier to send and harder to lose than their paper counterparts, but they also make keeping track of your records a breeze.
Ideally, you’ll want to save a PDF version of each invoice you create to send to your clients and to save on your computer or cloud storage.
If you have a client who requests physical invoices, it’s still a good idea to make a digital copy for yourself. Doing so will help you to avoid the hassle of losing or misplacing your only copy and having to start over again.
Add a Thank You Message
A simple thank you message at the bottom of your invoice is a great way to add a little warmth to your freelance business. It shows clients that you appreciate them and softens your request for payment by adding a personal note of appreciation. For example, you can say:
- Thank you for your business!
- Thank you for supporting freelancers!
- Thanks for supporting local businesses!
If you send physical invoices, consider writing out or signing the message by hand for added personalization.
How to Make a Freelance Invoice Template
You have a variety of options when it comes to making your own invoices. You can use invoicing software, or you can do it yourself. Most accounting software comes with invoicing tools, so if you already use a platform to track or accept payments, check whether you can use it to make invoices as well.
If you want to use an invoice generator, you can find free invoice templates on the following platforms:
Or, you can draft your own using a freelancer invoice template from:
Regardless of which method you use, save time by keeping your invoices consistent and using the same template each time. Customize each invoice for each billing cycle to include the correct line items, amount due, and payment due date.
Why Freelancers Should Use Professional Invoices
There are many benefits to using professional invoices as a freelancer.
1. They Help You to Get Paid on Time
One of the major hassles of being a freelancer is having to chase after payments. When clients pay on time and in full, it means that you can cover your bills and budget accordingly. But, when they don’t, you could be left scrambling to cover your expenses and make ends meet.
Providing clients with clear and straightforward information about the total amount due, when to pay it, and accepted payment methods leaves little room for error or miscommunication. Sending accurate and thorough invoices builds your reputation as a professional and legitimate small-business owner.
2. They’re Great Accounting Records
Invoices are ideal records for a variety of accounting purposes. For example, they come in handy:
- When tracking client payments or unpaid invoices
- During tax season to calculate your total income
- If disputes arise and legal action is necessary
- For budgeting, to know how much you can expect within a billing cycle
3. They Give You Control Over Payments
As a freelancer, some payment methods are more convenient than others. For example, cash and checks can be less than ideal because you either have to wait for the mail to come or set up an in-person meeting with a client to receive these forms of payment.
Invoices help to set and enforce payment terms, like the payment methods you accept and when you need to be paid by, making your freelance life easier. Although you may need to make exceptions for some clients, consistent payment terms outlined in your invoices leave less room for interpretation.
There really is no downside to using invoices as a freelancer. From making you look more reputable and professional to increasing your chances of getting paid in full and on time, invoices come with an abundance of benefits.
Whether you use accounting software like FreshBooks, or you create your own templates, make sure your freelance invoices are clear, consistent, and customized for each client to maximize the advantages great invoicing can offer you.